I had the opportunity to live in Madrid for five months during the beginning of 2012. Aptly describing the totality of my experience in words still seems impossible, but recording some of my impressions of the best museums I’ve ever visited could be a great way to begin.
Along the Paseo del Prado near the Atocha metro and train station in the center of town, lies the Golden Triangle of Art, which is comprised of three world famous museums: Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. I visited the museums many times during school trips and hours of leisure, and there never seemed to be enough time to absorb all they had to offer.
MUSEO DEL PRADO
The Museo del Prado is considered the main national art museum in Spain, housing an incredibly large collection of classical art ranging from the 12th to the 19th century. The Prado displays around 1,300 different works at a time, although its collection consists of 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,300 prints, and 8,200 drawings.
Throughout the museum, a myriad of paintings from an array of countries and eras line the halls and rooms, yet when I visited the museum, I found myself going to a room displaying a collection of Francisco Goya paintings entitled “The Black Paintings”. These fourteen oil paintings depict mostly grotesque, haunting images, which embody Goya’s disillusionment towards life and mankind. All of the paintings employ the same stylistic features, and their dark, brooding atmospheres evoke a sense of horror and savagery. My favorite of the collection was easily Saturn Devouring His Son, whose sheer effect, I would never be able to encapsulate in words.
MUSEO NACIONAL CENTRO DE ARTE REINA SOFIA
The Reina Sofia picks up where the Prado left, displaying 20th century art. Although there are international artists featured, the museum mostly exhibits Spanish artists such as Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso among others.
Aside from the incredible art at the Reina Sofia, such as Picasso’s monumental Guernica, perhaps the most stunning feature of the museum lies in its architectural amalgam. The Reina Sofia occupies the site of the first General Hospital of Madrid built in the early 19th century.
The historic hospital building holds most of the museum’s art and surrounds a beautiful courtyard, perfect for breaks between sectors. Renovations and additions began in the early 1980’s, and by the end of the decade, three distinctive glass circulation towers were added. Moreover, in 2005 French architect Jean Nouvel was licensed to expand the museum, which only added to unique architectural make up of the Reina Sofia.
Completing the Golden Triangle, the Thyssen-Bornemisza fills in the gaps of its counterparts. Comprised of the second largest private collection in the world, the museum contains 1,600 paintings from historical and modern periods.
Although I only visited the museum a couple of times, the Tyssen-Bornemisza boasts a remarkable collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, a personal favorite of mine. Some of the artists on display from this mode are still common names, even among those who aren’t necessarily enthusiasts, such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and van Gogh. These works, alongside other prominent 20th century artists, like Liechtenstein, De Kooning, Pollock, Hopper, Dali, and Picasso accentuates the importance of the Tyssen-Bornemisza, opposing the stereotypical view of it being the third, less important member of the Golden Triangle.